Pornographic Affair is a recent French movie about a very
unorthodox (for a movie) relationship. Two people (Nathilie
Baye and Sergi Lopez) meet through a personals ad from a sex
magazine. She placed the ad in hopes that the respondent will
help her fulfill a fantasy. He responds to the ad, and they
meet one day at a restaurant, before fulfilling their fantasy
in a hotel room. This is not a one-night-stand, however, as
the two meet every week in the same place for the same act.
And, as they spend more time with each other, other emotions
come in to play that are too much for mere fantasy. The movie
is told in flashback, with the two characters relating their
short relationship to an off-screen listener.
A Pornographic Affair is a very interesting movie. It is certainly
not a dirty movie in any typical sense, and is sexy in a sophisticated
way, as opposed to the kind of sexiness one may find in a
Russ Meyer film. Those who expect a wild, American-style soft-core
will probably be disappointed for the most part: most of the
movie is talk, and the fantasy that these two people enjoy
is not shown, or even discussed. The only hints we get are
when the two walk out of the hotel room, laughing at how they'll
be stiff in the morning. This tantalizing hint is enough for
we dirty minds to imagine all sorts of possible acts. . .
film does not feel dirty - it feels almost romantic. If they
were doing anything other than a sordid sexual act, we would
be watching a romance. It's not as if these two people are
abnormal, or bizarre outside of their sexual fantasy; they
are very affectionate with one another, and seem like nice
folk. In any other context, their affection, which grows to
a deeper attraction and love, would seem quite a normal progression.
So the movie is romantic, but at the same time, it is not
unreal. After all, these people did meet for the purposes
of acting out a crazy sexual encounter. Some people probably
believe that people who engage in no-strings-attached sex
are devoid of morality, because there is no "love".
Of course, they don't define what "love" is, and
while they say it, naturally assume that love - or healthy
feelings - could not grow. At the same time, there are people
on the other side of the spectrum who believe that it would
be great to just have sex without all that lovey-dovey stuff.
This movie blows apart both of those theories. Two people,
no matter what they do, can not avoid the inevitable. Feelings,
emotions - of any sort - will kick in, unexpectedly.
the case of the two main characters, the dynamic begins immediately,
as they discuss their expectations of what the other would
look like, leading to a funny story from the woman about a
long ago wish to be with a hairy man! We don't think of it
at first, but, of course, as in any other romance, these two
are getting to know each other, and by willing to meet every
week, they also get to talk more with each other before and
after the act. He says to the off-screen person that he got
used to her; he started seeing her faults, and got used to
that too. And during the relationship, she tells him that
he is a really decent person, and that he was more than she
Later, as in many relationship movies, they make love.......
so what do you call the sex acts they did before?? But the
fantasy is different from a "normal" sex act; here
they are actually intimate, vulnerable. They are not playing
a game, or at least, it doesn't seem like a game. The problem
is that the whole point of their relationship is to satisfy
a kink, not to become lovers. They don't even know each other's
names or any other part of each other's lives (shades of Last
Tango in Paris), but their need to keep things anonymous is
threatened by their feelings toward each other. And the rest
of the movie details that battle between detached fantasy
and fragile emotions.
Like I said, this movie shows that relationships - any relationship
- between a man and a woman will involve some sort of emotions,
like affection, or love, or even just the need to be with
another person. Now, I don't engage in any of these sordid,
kinky sexual fantasies, but I do know all about fooling around
and the complications that arise afterwards (I've had my own
little Internet personal ad adventure!) - so, oddly enough,
I can relate to this movie.
of the film is awkward, mainly the use of the off-screen interviewer,
which allows for the reflection of the two characters which
would not be able to occur if the movie had been a typical
narrative. But the purpose of the movie is to show these two
people and their strange affair, and it is all good stuff
(as my eccentric but beautiful friend would say). The two
actors are restrained, and they'd have to be, because part
of the tension is in if they can keep their emotions reined
in and continue with the fantasy. It is not until the last
portion of the film where the emotions ever so slightly take
over, allowing the actors to exhibit more emotion. Nathile
Baye is certainly interesting to me: she is obviously an older
woman, but just like my impression of Susan Sarandon, she
is quite attractive in her maturity, although in a more quiet,
restrained way. Baye actually looks like the kind of woman
who is open-minded and wise at the same time.
The movie is sexy in a sophisticated, beautiful way. There
are really only two steamy scenes, including the scene where
they first make love "normally". For me, it has
to be one of the best sex scenes ever, because it seems real.
The two don't just fool around; they even talk while they're
fooling around. Basically, they have an intimate experience
Possibly the funniest part of the movie is its title. In Europe
and the rest of the world, including here in Canada, the film
is called A Pornographic Affair. But in the U.S., Fine Line
Features renamed it An Affair of Love, as if the original
title would have brought in numerous hardcore fans, who'd
be dismayed to be watching a French film. Neither title is
completely accurate. An Affair of Love sounds like a bland
love story; A Pornographic Affair sounds like a sleazy, exploitative
is one strange and nice little movie. It tells its story with
warmth, and, even though you don't know everything about the
characters, you feel for them, and you do want to know more.
And, in its own weird way, the ending of A Pornographic Affair
is almost as painful as any other movie about lovers who must
part (like Casablanca, maybe!). But in a quiet, subtle, French
kind of way, of course.
Macdonald's Movie Reviews